THEY say seasons change and so do we. This adage speaks volumes about turning over a new leaf, of seizing the right opportunity to improve and sp ur growth. In corporate talk, this means that as businesses prepare to wrap up the year on a positive note, it is proper to look back, not just on the gains but also the hits and misses to harness lessons and be able to apply them in the coming year.

Early last year, businesses faced the challenge of running operations amid lockdowns and pandemic restrictions. Along with it came the need to allay the fears of employees and, to a large extent, clients and the public. Most efforts paid off. The latter half of 2020 through 2021 was described as a period of recovery and rightfully so. A World Bank report cited that more businesses reopened during November last year, or 63 percent from 45 percent a few months prior. This was attributed to the gradual easing of pandemic restrictions.

The retail industry suffered major blows in 2020 and e-commerce swiftly became an integral part of business strategy and recovery. Retailers were able to innovate and reposition this year, with brick-and-mortar establishments pivoting toward recovery through the adoption of digital retail programs up to the present. Several big firms powered through despite a drop in revenue and the blows from the pandemic did not deter them from creating new jobs.

In fact, Grant Thornton's International Business Report — a leading survey of mid-market firms across the globe — showed that while economic progress slowed in 2021, the global recovery continued. In addition, a significant number of companies showed no signs of slowing in terms of growing operations internationally.

Amid the flurry of changes, resilience and agility are keeping businesses going and continuing to empower them to go beyond perceived limits. Before the pandemic, these already formed the cornerstone of incidence and risk management programs. The disruptions brought by the global catastrophe bolstered their importance even more.

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Strengthening corporate governance

Business trends now show that emphasis must be given to what can rightfully be called the future of corporate governance: commitment to leading by example through environmental, social and governance (ESG) programs. The importance cannot be more underscored today where capital market volatility is largely dictated by the pandemic, government lockdowns and medical breakthroughs in combating Covid-19.

We are experiencing a global incident that may very well be the most striking metaphor that can encourage investors and businesses to adopt a sense of health and environmental awareness. Companies must do their part through ESG initiatives or those that put a premium on corporate and social responsibility (CSR).

Organizations, in an effort to reduce their carbon footprint, are reducing office spaces and opening up smaller satellite offices to be closer to where employees reside. This not only enhances access for staff but also reduces the firm's carbon emissions. This can be done on top of CSRs.

Preparing for future risks

No one anticipated the pandemic. Incidence risk management models were clearly not tailored to factor in a catastrophe of such magnitude. Despite this, many companies were able to deal with the blow while strengthening their risk management strategies for future and similar issues.

Like CSR initiatives, business continuity should be at the core of every firm's operational strategy. This includes outlining a detailed plan covering risk assessment and management, close communication with stakeholders and promotion of employee safety. Pandemic or no pandemic, these are nonnegotiables. Digital transformation should also be a key element, particularly now that most businesses are considering remote or hybrid work setups as restrictions ease. Today, utilizing automation and collaboration platforms is a need more than an option.

Winning the war for talent

Talent acquisition continues to be the top priority of any business. Looking for the right employee is one thing; retaining skillful staff is another. In one of our earlier articles, we mentioned that to win the war for talent, the roles of talent management teams must be carefully mapped out alongside the improvement of company culture.

Of course, effective communication and work integration should be given utmost priority. This is particularly important when businesses introduce corporate changes that will affect employees and other stakeholders. Another important consideration is the promotion of employee safety and welfare, which must be considered in laying the groundwork for new policies on work arrangements and similar corporate matters.

Our firm ensures that aside from all these, it is able to lend a helping hand to students and future CPAs when it comes to their professional advancement. That is why P&A's People and Culture Group holds a holistic internship program every year to help accounting students prepare for a career in the field of public accounting. Here, they are exposed to four main service lines: audit and assurance, tax advisory and compliance, advisory, and business process solutions.

As they say, the only thing that will always remain inevitable and constant is change. But while there are necessary adjustments to be made for every change of season in the world of business, it also represents opportunities. These opportunities can open a whole new set of benefits to spur business recovery and growth. As we prepare to draw the curtain on our wins, hits and misses this year, may we remember to apply our learnings in 2022 and remain positive that with resilience and an innovative mindset, we can glide through any challenge or disruption that lies ahead.

Anton Ng is a partner in the Audit & Assurance division of P&A Grant Thornton. P&A Grant Thornton is one of the leading audit, tax, advisory and outsourcing firms in the Philippines, with 24 partners and more than 1000 staff members. We'd like to hear from you! Tweet us at @GrantThorntonPH, like us on Facebook at P&A Grant Thornton and email your comments to [email protected] For more information, visit our website at www.grantthornton.com.ph.